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05/20/2005 Archived Entry: "MLB News: NL Roundup 5-20-2005"

MLB News: NL Roundup 5-20-2005 by Norman LeRoy

NL Roundup 5-20-2005

Nationals climb within one-half game of Atlanta; young pitchers star for Philly, Arizona, Colorado

It was another day of solid pitching performances in the National League yesterday, starring three young hurlers and one cagey veteran.

The cagey one was the Washington Nationals 30-year old right-hander Livan Hernandez (7-2), who beguiles opposing hitters by changing speeds effectively and throwing from a number of different arm angles. Hernandez was on form against the Milwaukee Brewers (19-21), despite suffering from an ailing right knee. He pitched six strong innings Thursday night, allowing only one run on seven hits as the Nationals (23-18) beat the Brewers 4-2 to take 3 games of a four game set. Washington has now won 5 of 6 series to move within one-half game of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, despite the loss of second-baseman Jose Vidro to a badly sprained left ankle. Vidro’s stand in, Jamey Carroll, went 2 for 4 on the day, scoring his teams first run and driving in the second

The Nats didn’t get rolling against Brewers right-hander Victor Santos until the fourth. They didn’t get their first hit until the fourth, in fact, when Carroll poked a one out single to right to spark the rally. After a Nick Johnson fly-out, Carroll hustled home on a Vinny Castilla double to score the game's first run. Carroll, batting 16-for-49 since the injury to Vidro, drove in Brian Schneider with a base-hit in the next inning to plate the Nats second run.

Bill Hall slugged an RBI triple off Hernandez in the 6th, bringing the Brewers within one, but the Nats added insurance in the home half when Brewers reliever Tommy Phelps crossed-up catcher Chad Moeller, resulting in a passed ball which allowed Castilla to scamper home from third. Moeller had called for a change-up, and Phelps had delivered a fastball, just another mishap in a tough year for the 30 year-old catcher. Moeller is mired in a season long slump with a .119 average, resulting in a loss of playing time to Damian Miller. The Brewers clawed back within a run in the seventh on two hit-batsmen, a Junior Spivey bunt, and a Geoff Jenkins sacrifice fly. A platoon of Washington relievers closed out the game, however, with Chad Cordero hanging on for his tenth save despite walking two batters. Washington’s bullpen, with a combined ERA of 1.91, is a big reason for the team’s success; picked by many to finish last in the NL East, the gritty Nationals have put themselves in position to challenge for the division title.

St. Louis (25-15) was expected to be in the play-off hunt, and they are, but they would be in even better shape if they could figure out the heavy-hitting Philadelphia Phillies (19-23). In 6 games against the Phils this year, the Cardinals starters have a 9.91 ERA; in 34 games against the rest of the league they’ve posted a glittering 2.60. The Phillies bats gave them fits again last night, but it was the dazzling right arm of 24-year-old Brett Myers that did them in. Myers went seven innings, striking out nine Cards without a walk in leading Philadelphia to a 7-4 win and a two-games-to-one series victory over the Redbirds. Philadelphia completed their season series with a 4-2 advantage over the Cards, who will be happy not to see the best last place team in baseball the rest of the way.

Myers actually struggled early, giving up a solo home-run to Jim Edmonds in the second and a two-run blast to Albert Pujols in the third that briefly gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead. Myers showed the composure of a veteran however, shutting down the opposition the rest of the way and giving his offense the opportunity to take over, which they did. Cards starter Jason Marquis labored on the mound, needing 93 pitches to complete only four innings and leaving the game with his team down 4-3. Despite leaving twelve on base, the Phils totaled seven runs on twelve hits altogether, drawing ten walks off Cards hurlers, six of them off the erratic Marquis. Pat Burrell paced the attack, going three-for-four with two RBI’s, and Bobby Abreau singled and scored once to run his consecutive games hitting streak to twelve. Philadelphia has hung around despite missing slugging first-baseman Jim Thome, temporarily lost to a back injury; if they can survive a grueling nine game road trip without him, they should be positioned to make a run when he returns. Only in the ultra-competitive East is this a last-place team, and with Thome near returning and the season that Myers is having—yesterdays gameactually raised his ERA to 1.88 – they might not remain in last for long.

Colorado (12-26) is a last-place team that will probably stay put, but they got some hope for the future last night in the performance of 24-year –old lefthander Jeff Francis. Francis (4-1) defied the thin air of the Mile High city to shut down the San Francisco Giants and help his team to a 3-1 victory. Francis improves to 5-0 lifetime at Coors, with a sparkling 2.78 ERA. He struck out five in six innings as Colorado took two of three from the Giants, who fall to 19-21 with the loss. San Francisco scored their lone run on a Lance Niekro home run in the sixth; Colorado scored on a Luis Gonzalez solo shot in the second, a Cory Sullivan double in the third, and a Garret Atkins homerun off reliever Matt Herges in the sixth. Herges was in because Giants starter Brett Tomko (3-6), who was saddled with the loss, wore himself out in only five innings of work, walking three on 91 pitches.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (25-17) had a solid young pitcher on display themselves last night. Brad Halsey (3-2) had an outstanding game. The 24-year old Houston native outdueled certain Hall of Famer Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros en route to a 6-1 victory. Halsey was not fazed at all by pitching in his hometown. He needed only 79 pitches to work seven innings, allowing only one run along the way. Clemens (3-20 pitched well himself, allowing 3 runs in the first, 2 earned, before settling down and blanking the D-backs through his next five innings of work.

The 3 first inning runs were scored courtesy of two Houston errors, one on a poorly delivered pick-off attempt by Clemens which allowed Craig Counsell to race to third. Alex Cintron brought Counsell home with a groundout to score the games first run, and the rally was on. Luis Gonzalez followed with a single; Troy Glaus brought him all the way home with a double, and then scored himself on a Jose Vizcaino error to make the tally D-backs 3, Astros 0. That was all Arizona would need with Halsey on the mound, but they added 3 in the ninth for good measure on a Luis Gonzalez clout off Mike Burns. Houston, who have struggled to score runs all year, had no answer for Halsey. They reached him only in the seventh, and then only just. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Jason Lane grounded into a potential double-play, but just beat the relay to first, allowing Craig Biggio to score. That was all they could muster, and Jose Valerde closed them out in the ninth for his first save. Houston drops to 15-25 with the defeat.

Inter-league play is upon us now, and some interesting clashes await, including City Series’ in both Chicago and New York. Here are today’s matchups:

Chicago White Sox (Garcia) at Chicago Cubs (Maddux)
Atlanta Braves (Hudson 4-2) at Boston Red Sox (Miller 0-0)
Washington Nationals (Vargas 0-1) at Toronto Blue Jays (Lilly 1-4)
Arizona Diamondbacks (Webb 5-0) at Detroit Tigers (Bonderman 5-2)
Philadelphia Phillies (Wolf 2-4) at Baltimore Orioles (Cabrera 3-2)
Houston Astros (Backe 3-2) at Texas Rangers (Rogers 4-2)
St Louis Cardinals (Mulder 5-1) at Kansas City Royals (Grienke 0-4)
Milwaukee Brewers (Glover 2-2) at Minnesota Twins (Silva 2-2)
San Diego Padres (Peavy 3-0) at Seattle Mariners (Franklin 2-4)
Colorado Rockies (Wright 2-3) at Pittsburgh Pirates (Redman 2-3)
Cleveland Indians (Millwood 1-3) at Cincinnati Reds (Harang 2-2)
New York Yankees (Brown 2-4) at New York Mets (Zambrano 2-3)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Nomo 2-3) at Florida Marlins (Leiter 1-4)
Oakland Athletics (Blanton 0-4) at San Francisco Giants (Reuter 2-2)
…Angels of Anaheim (Washburn 2-2) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Erickson 1-3)

That’s the day that was in the National League; if you spot the inevitable error or just have a comment, email me at

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